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Iraqi or Shiite? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is not surprising that the Sadrist trend that is led by Moqtada al-Sadr are complaining of Iran pressuring them to accept Nouri al-Maliki remaining in office for a second term, however what is strange is the Sadrist trend saying – in a statement issued after the trend backed down with regards to its reservation towards al-Maliki’s nomination – that political pressure is normal as “everybody is trying to move their bread closer to the fire” [Iraqi proverb meaning everybody is acting in their own interests] and that “politics is give and take!” This is true, for politics is the art of the possible, however the most important question here remains; is Moqtada al-Sadr a Shiite or an Iraqi? And what is more important [to him]; Iraq, or subordination to Iran? If al-Sadr is suffering as a result of Iranian pressure, why does he not leave Iran, even if this is just to return to Iraq and confront al-Maliki, especially given that al-Sadr’s follower outnumber al-Maliki’s a thousand to one? The other question that must be asked here is; why did the Sadrists not act in accordance with this principle of bowing to pressure during the Saddam Hussein era? For the Sadrists historical and well-known position was one of non-collusion with the former regime against the people of Iraq; and the Sadrists did not submit to the former regime’s intimidation tactics or blackmail, despite the fact that the Saddam Hussein regime was no less ruthless or severe than the Iranian regime!

This represents a very dangerous problem, for if one’s loyalty is not first to the country, this means that all of or countries are in trouble. This raises another question; have the Arab countries failed in establishing national loyalty and patriotism, which are the true guarantors of national security, stability, development, and prosperity? An Indian – regardless of whether he is a Muslim or non-Muslim – or indeed any Asian, regardless of religion and nationality, is able to live in the West – the US or Europe – and respect the constitution of the country that he lives, in, serve in its army, and contribute to its development and welfare, without this diminishing his pride in his roots, or his relationship with his God, or his beliefs. However as for the Arab case, the situation is a strange and indeed frightening one. I have not forgotten when an Indian Muslim official proudly asked me “Tell me, in all the years of hostility between India and Pakistan, have you ever heard of an Indian Muslim being accused of treason for working for Pakistan?” Therefore the question that must be asked here is; do the Shiites in Lebanon, for example, consider themselves to be Lebanese or Shiites? The same goes for Iraq, and elsewhere. For a Turk certainly considers himself to be Turkish before he considers himself to be Sunni, and a Syrian views himself as Syrian before Sunni, and I personally view myself as a Saudi Arabian before I view myself as Sunni, and the same also applies to an Egyptian, whether he is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Therefore, if politics in Iraq is arranged according to [religious] reference, what is the point of elections? What is the difference between Saddam Hussein and Nouri al-Maliki other than that Saddam used violence to remain in power, while al-Maliki has resorted to Iran?

This reveals the major difference between Iyad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki, as Allawi is a Shiite who believes that the Iraqi identity is more important than narrow sectarianism, and that this is the true guarantor to preserve Iraq. As a result of this, he won the votes of the people, even if he only won the elections by a single vote, for this is democracy; there is no difference between losing by one vote or by one thousand. Meanwhile al-Maliki views sectarianism as that which will allow him to remain in power, and so there is a huge difference between these two beliefs, and these two men.

Here the critical question is; is al-Sadr an Iraqi or a Shiite? For by answering this question we will be able to know where Iraq is heading.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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